Breaded Ranch Chicken: Easy and Delicious

This is my first entry, so bear with me.

I’m new to cooking so you won’t find any fancy schmancy recipes from me, but you will find some that will probably be enjoyed by children.  I have a pretty simple palette, to say the least.

This chicken is so delicious and easy to make.  My roommate and I have been making it for a couple of years now and decided to break it out again on this snowy day.  With just a few ingredients, a side dish (potatoes, stuffing, rice), and some veggies, we made a great meal that was a nice change from the quick frozen meals that we make far too often.

Ingredients:

-Chicken Tenderloins
-Ranch Dressing
-Italian Bread Crumbs

Directions:

-Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.

-Pour bread crumbs and ranch dressing in two separate bowls.

-Clean chicken and dip in the ranch dressing.

-Then dip the chicken into the italian bread crumbs.

-Lay the chicken in a greased glass (pyrex) casserole dish.

-Place in oven for 20 min or until chicken is fully cooked.

-ENJOY!

This is where the magic happens…

The Prep Area

The Prep Area

I’m not sure my cooking can be qualified as “magical” quite yet, but this is where I spend my time trying to figure out what items are actually usable for making a decent meal, sometimes better than decent.  I find something new about the kitchen every time I use it, like another knob is broken, or the sink is leaking…I can’t complain, though, with colors like that I’m hardly ever gloomy when cooking.  There may have been some sort of strategy involved in the paint selection…It’s not like it rains often in Portland or anything…

The Infamous Stove

The Beloved Stove

Here it is, the lovely stove that provides 95% of our meals.  The other 5% is due to our occasional sandwich making.  This adds a very minor bit of variety to our menu.  Sometimes we go all out, and have ourselves some cereal!

Despite its flaws, I do enjoy the effort and adversity involved with this kitchen, and I’m sure I will miss the unique quality of it when I move on.  Who needs working appliances anyway?!

Oatmeal Cookies

For years oatmeal cookies were an inexpensive snack for children coming home from  school; but today they seem to have been replaced by the Chocolate Chip cookies.  The oatmeal cookie came in many forms.  Mothers added dry fruits such as raisins, apricots  or what ever was in the house including nuts.  Today they  seem to be full of spices and raisins are the preferred fruit.  You will see on the  website, a recipe for Mary’s Wafers. They are a very crisp cookie which tastes like oatmeal.  Try it as a single serving or you can take two and put various fillings between them as they were served to me. In past years it was often a date filling, but simple fillings like jam work well. Here is the recipe:

Mary’s Wafers (Oatmeal Cookies)

Coconut 4-Layer Cake

Here is the best coconut cake we have ever tasted. The toasted coconut brings out the flavor while adding a crunchy texture. The buttercream frosting is lighter than you would expect where many coconut cakes have whipped cream frosting. This is a great cake for a spring time event such as Easter but we make it any time of year. Enjoy!

Coconut 4-Layer Cake

Coconut 4-Layer Cake

Recipe

Cake
1 large egg
5 large egg whites
3/4 cup cream of coconut
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp coconut extract
2 1/4 cups cake flour (9 ounces), sifted
1 cup granulated sugar
1 Tbs baking powder
3/4 tsp table salt
12 Tbs unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), cut into 12 pieces, softened, but still cool
2 cups packed sweetened shredded coconut (about 8 ounces)

Buttercream
4 large egg whites
1 cup granulated sugar
pinch table salt
1 lb unsalted butter (4 sticks), each stick cut into 6 pieces, softened, but still cool
1/4 cup cream of coconut
1 tsp coconut extract
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Add a cutout of parchment paper to the bottom of two 9-inch round pans then grease the pans with shortening and dust with cake flour, tapping out the excess.

2. Beat egg whites and whole egg in large measuring cup with fork to combine. Add cream of coconut, water, vanilla, and coconut extract and beat with fork until thoroughly combined.

3. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in bowl of standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Mix on lowest speed to combine, about 30 seconds. With mixer still running on lowest speed, add butter 1 piece at a time, then beat until mixture resembles coarse meal, with butter bits no larger than small peas, 2 to 2 1/2 minutes.

4. With mixer still running, add 1 cup liquid. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, about 45 seconds. With mixer still running, add remaining 1 cup liquid in steady stream (this should take about 15 seconds). Stop mixer and scrape down bowl with rubber spatula, then beat at medium-high speed to combine, about 15 seconds. (Batter will be thick.)

5. Divide batter between cake pans and level with offset or rubber spatula. Bake until deep golden brown, cakes pull away from sides of pans, and toothpick inserted into center of cakes comes out clean, about 30 minutes (rotate cakes after about 20 minutes). Do not turn off oven.

6. Cool in pans on wire racks about 10 minutes, then loosen cakes from sides of pans with paring knife, invert cakes onto racks and then re-invert; cool to room temperature.

7. While cakes are cooling, spread shredded coconut on rimmed baking sheet; toast in oven until shreds are a mix of golden brown and white, about 15 to 20 minutes, stirring 2 or 3 times. Cool to room temperature.

8. For the Buttercream: Combine whites, sugar, and salt in bowl of standing mixer; set bowl over saucepan containing 1 1/2-inches of barely simmering water. Whisk constantly until mixture is opaque and warm to the touch and registers about 120 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, about 2 minutes.

9. Transfer bowl to mixer and beat whites on high speed with whisk attachment until barely warm (about 80 degrees) and whites are glossy and sticky, about 7 minutes. Reduce speed to medium-high and beat in butter 1 piece at a time. Beat in cream of coconut and coconut and vanilla extracts. Stop mixer and scrape bottom and sides of bowl. Continue to beat at medium-high speed until well-combined, about 1 minute.

10. To assemble the cake cut each round in half using a knife or cake cutter. Spread about a 1/8 to 1/4 inch layer of buttercream on each layer stacking as you go. Spread remaining icing on the top and sides until fully covered. Lightly pack the toasted coconut on the top and sides of the cake.

(Note: Adapted from a recipe in Baking Illustrated.)

Spicy Spaghetti Carbonara

Spaghetti carbonara is a favorite quick and easy meal to bring to the table during the busy work week. That was the request from my family for dinner tonight. Thank goodness it was not something more complex, because it is only Tuesday. I have made basic carbonara so many times now I have the recipe memorized. Putting my creative chef hat on, I opened the refrigerator for some new ideas. Hiding in the back corner I found a secret ingredient that would put a twist on tonight’s dinner; chipotle peppers. Today we would invent Spicy Spaghetti Carbonara and as Emeril would say “Kick it up a notch”. I found that one pepper provided just enough heat and flavor to do just that. I hope you enjoy this variation on a pasta classic.

Spicy Spaghetti Carbonara
Recipe

9 bacon slices chopped
1 Tbs butter
1/2 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (about 1/1/2 ounces)
4 large egg yolks
12 ounces spaghetti
2 cloves garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup sweet onion, diced
1 chipotle pepper in adobe sauce
Additional freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1. Combine bacon and butter in heavy large skillet. Saute over medium heat until bacon is brown and crisp. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towels to drain. Add onion and garlic to skillet. Saute over medium-low heat until translucent with light brown edges. Remove bacon fat from the skillet until 2 tbsp remain. Set skillet aside to cool. Whisk cream, 1/2 cup grated cheese, and egg yolks in medium bowl to blend. Whisk the onion mixture into the cream mixture. Set cream mixture aside. Finely chop the bacon in a food processor. Add the chipotle pepper and pulse 5 time until blended with the bacon.

Bacon chopped in the food processor

2. Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain pasta the pasta and return to same pot. Add cream mixture to pasta. Toss over medium-low heat until sauce cooks through and coats pasta thickly, about 4 minutes. Mix in bacon mixture. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve warm with additional cheese on the side.

Servings: 6

Vadalia Onion Soup

Soup production is back in full swing in our house now that the winter months are here. The decision is always which one to make this time. I often look to the many soups already posted in our database. The list of flavors range from Acorn Squash and Apple soup to Zucchini soup. However, when I am not surfing the web for a soup recipe, my favorite soup cookbook, the New England Soup Factory Cookbook is what I grab from the bookshelf. I have yet to make a soup from this book that was not a keeper. I am not sure if it still remains in print.

Monday evening I turned to page 12 for a favorite of ours, Vadalia Onion soup. It is very similar to a standard french onion soup, but with added sweetness from the onions and tomato paste. If you find it too sweet, you can cut back on the tomato paste. It has always been a hit with our guests and family. The picture below is shown without the cheese so you can see the texture and color of the soup.

Recipe

6 tbsp salted butter
8 large Vidalia onions, sliced
3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
2 cups cream sherry, divided
3 tbsp tomato paste
16 cups beef stock
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp cornstarch dissolved in 3 tbsp water
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
croutons
grated Gruyere cheese

In a stockpot melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onions and saute for 20 minutes, stirring frequently to keep from sticking. Add garlic and continue to saute for 20 more minutes. Add 1 cup of the sherry. Deglaze the pan, stirring to loosen the cooked pieces at the bottom. Add the remaining 1 cup sherry, tomato paste, beef stock, and bay leaves. Increase heat to med-high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 1 hour. Add corn starch mixture and increase heat to high. Turn off the heat adding the vinegar and salt and pepper.

Remove the bay leaves. Ladle into soup bowls or a large ramekins. Add croutons on top and then cheese. Put bowls on a cooking sheet and place under broiler until cheese is bubbly and brown.

Note: If you buy the onions at Costco, those are jumbo not large.

Cooktop Chicken and Pasta

We have graduated two daughters out into the wild wild west of the world that also means cooking for yourself to survive. Not as easy as just arriving at the table and it is all prepared for you. Alison has been blogging from Portland while Heather still snatches an occasional dinner here on Sundays nights. We had finished our dinner when Alison’s blog arrived and her new secret weapon; Pasta! Yes it is easy and comes in all different shapes and infused flavors. Last night we cooked as Alison does with just a skillet and some pasta and chicken. The last minute creation was a hit here and I have been pressed to share it. There was no recipe per se so if it turns out wrong, I guess you will just have to strike that up to the memory being not as sharp as it once was.

Chicken

4 chicken breast (cut and prepared as cutlets)
1/4 cup of vegetable oil (or your preferred frying oil)
3/4 cup of flour
1 tbsp season salt
1 tbsp dry herbs (Italian will work)
1 can chicken broth (14oz)
2 lemons
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
salt and pepper to taste

Pasta
1 bell pepper, diced (red, yellow or green)
3/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 large vidalia onion, diced
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp oregano
1 box orzo pasta (1lb)
3/4 cup of Parmesan cheese, grated.

1. Bring water to a boil adding some salt to prepare the pasta.
2. In a frying pan add the 2 tbps of oil heat to a medium temperature. Add the onions and peppers sauteing them for about 10 minutes or until tender. Reduce heat to med-low adding the oregano and red wine vinegar. Simmer for 2 minutes and then just keep warm on a low heat.
3. Prepare chicken and pat dry. Mix season salt, herb and flour in a gallon zip lock bag. Drop one or two cutlets in at a time and shake until coated setting them aside on a plate. Bring a large skillet or saute pan with the vegetable oil up to a medium heat. Add the cutlets to the pan (no more than four) and cook each side about 2-3 minutes until golden brown. Remove chickens from the pan and wipe out any excess oil.
4. Cook the pasta as directed.
5. Add the butter to the saute pan and melt on med-low heat until lightly brown and bubbly. Add the flour forming a roux. Add the chicken broth and blend together with a whisk until uniform. Squeeze the lemons into the pan and whisk in. Put all of the chickens back in the pan making sure they are coated with the sauce. Use tongs if you have them to keep the coating in place. Cook for 2-3 more minutes and then keep warm on low. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
6. Put the drained but warm pasta back in the pot and add the onion and pepper mix, parsley, and cheese until uniformly blended. Add salt and pepper to taste.
7. Serve the chicken with sauce from the pan and garnish with chopped parsley. Have wedges of lemon on the side to add tartness to the chicken and pasta if you wish.